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Psychology Doctoral Dissertation Defense: Jessica Smith

Tuesday, May 28 at 1:00pm to 3:00pm

AHC1 - Academic Health Center 1, 135
11200 SW 8th ST, Academic Health Center 1, Miami, Florida 33199

Executive Functioning in Youth Externalizing Psychopathology: Methodological and Theoretical Considerations

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most prevalent mental health diagnosis of childhood. While executive functioning (EF) is one of the most prominent putative etiological theories of ADHD, this literature is complicated by the disorder’s heterogeneity, the disorder’s high rate of comorbidity with disruptive behavior problems (DBPs), and ongoing debates about the best measurement of EF. This dissertation is comprised of four chapters that are focused on these issues. Chapter II incorporated actigraphy to further clarify the disparate relationships between task-based EF and questionnaire-based EF with hyperactivity given the measurement similarities inherent between parent-report of both symptoms and EF. A sample of n=52 youth aged 8-12 completed EF tasks while their movement was measured via actigraphy; parent-report of symptoms and EF were obtained. The study demonstrated that task-based EF predicted movement to a greater extent than questionnaire-based EF. Chapter III was the first review of “hot” (i.e., emotionally or motivationally salient) EF in youth ADHD. This review highlighted substantial inconsistencies in measurement of the construct and outlined recommendations for future research. Chapter IV examined the developmental course of ADHD and DBPs in n=849 youth aged 9-15 via latent transition analysis (LTA), and Chapter V expanded upon these findings by considering the role of EF. These chapters identified several distinct trajectories of externalizing psychopathology from childhood through adolescence, and discussed several unique insights with regards to the role of EF in these symptomatic pathways. Overall, this portfolio highlights the importance of measurement issues for advancing our understanding of EF and its role in youth externalizing psychopathology

Major Professor: Dr. Erica D. Musser


Event Type

Academics, Lectures & conferences


Students, Faculty & Staff, General Public


Department of Psychology


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